Sunday, June 21, 2009

argentine road trip

It was difficult to sleep Friday night. I was so excited to go on my first Argentine road trip and I was also nervous that I didn't do 'enough' research, but over all I was more excited.

looking back, i had so many reasons to be uberexcited.

Saturday at 8:30am I was at the Hertz signing all the papers for the car. I eagerly asked the agent what kind of car she was giving me (hoping for a VW), but they game me 'a similar' car. Chevrolet Corsica. It was new and small so I was still happy. (new car with an ashtray but no cup holders)

I also rented a gps, but it was pretty much a waste. In the states I had a Garmin which was super easy to use. The beast of a gps they gave me was horrible. So horrible that YOU had to tell the gps where you were starting from. Shouldn't the gps know where it is? It was so difficult to use the Hertz guy took 5 min to figure it out.

So, once I was ready to go, my first time driving in 7 months, it just felt so natural to put it in first gear and just pull away from the curb. The first street that I turned onto was the widest avenue in the world (9 de Julio), I was only on it for 1 block before I made a turn.

I wasn't sure how I would feel driving in Buenos Aires, but it felt so so good. It was really fun and not as difficult or as complicated as I thought it would be to drive in the city (although I really enjoy driving).

I picked up 3 of my closest friends and we headed out of the city towards the town of Colon Argentina and Paysandu Uruguay.

My co-pilots were wonderful. They helped me watch out for signs, they helped navigate, they sang and they prepared mate! It's so typical in the states to drink coffee while driving and while in Argentina it's typical to drink mate while driving. So, there I was, driving with a gourd full of mate, sipping it through the metal straw.

(photo below: a store in a town off of the highway. a road trip isn't a road trip without getting lost. )
We arrived in Colon 3.5 hours later. The town was small and charming. The tourist office was in a beautiful building and the woman who worked there was so helpful. She gave us information on the Thermal baths in Colon and told us that crossing the bridge to Paysandu Uruguay would be no problem. (I needed to go over for a new tourist visa since mine is about to expire).

(photo below: our American car without cup holders or an airbag.)(photo below: tourist office in Colon)
(photo below: looking out the window of the tourist office at the river)
(photo below: driving around Colon)
(photo below: it was such a warm day! i wonder if it's always like this? look at how green the trees are?)
So, being the crazy adventurous girls we were we crossed the bridge by car instead of waiting for a bus. I felt like I was in good company that if something would have gone wrong we all would have all dealt with the situation in a calm way. Also two of the girls are native Spanish speakers and one knows how to flirt (which gets you far in this country).

The bridge was very very close to the town of Colon and since nothing exsists outside of the town (no suburban sprawl) the route to the bridge was very easy to find (no gps needed).

When we could see the bridge we came up to a checkpoint with uniformed officials, but when we got close they just flagged us through. We were all shocked thinking that that was the passport check point. Since I really needed the new visa we turned the car around and went back. This time the officials came out to our car. They told us that it wasn't the checkpoint. (It's funny that we thought it was an Argentine checkpoint, because it seems like that's something Argentina would do, just flag us through.)

(photo below: welcome to uruguay sign)
Once we crossed the bridge we pulled up to the real passport check point. We were all relieved that it was a man (again because flirting goes far). After a couple of minutes of them checking our passports and the documentation of the car we were through! No problems!

Paysandu Uruguay was very cute. The road that is directly after the bridge ran along the the river. There were beaches with sand and a park with grass. We ate lunch at a restaurant, outside under a thatched roof . It felt like we were on a vacation on an island, it just had that kind of atmosphere.

(photo below: horse crossing the street)
(photo below: Paysandu Uruguay)
(photo below: "Enjoy the new beaches of the Uruguay River. Sun and River." The lady in the advertisement is passing mate.)
(photo below: a building in Paysandu)We drove around the town of Paysandu, but there wasn't much to see, so we left and did another successful bridge crossing.

(photo below: under the bridge back to Argentina (where the passport checkpoint is). there were horses just walking around)
When we arrived back into Colon we went to the thermal baths. They were at the edge of town near the river. We drove on many dirt roads to get there. (many of the roads/streets in Colon aren't paved)

(photo below: dirt roads in Colon Argentina)
The thermal baths were amazing amazing amazing. To swim in hot water was the most amazing feeling.

The baths were just swimming pools filled with natural hot water. The set up looked just like a public pool in the states, but instead there were about 6 different pools. One was inside a glass house, another was inside a large white tent and the others were outside. They all had varying temperatures. We stayed for 2 hours. We were there at night, so not many people were there.

(photo below: thermal baths before we went in)
I think we left Colon at 8pm. We started to drive home and discussed possible options for dinner. One suggestion was to stop in another town called Gualeguaychu. When we passed the exit on the highway we spontaneously decided to go!

We drove around looking for the river, got lost in a ghetto and then we found it. We walked around the town for a bit and then had some ice cream.

(photo below: there were many stray dogs. all of them were so sweet. when you talked to them they rolled on their backs looking cute or put their paw on your leg.)
The drive home was not fun. It started to rain. There weren't any lights on the highway nor were there any cars. The road had such bad grooves where all the water was pooling, so that left me driving in the middle of the road. Thank goodness no one else was around. There also weren't any reflective material on the road so you could barely see the faded yellow line and there was no line to tell you where the road's shoulder was. It was very difficult to drive back.

Once we came back to civilization, where there were lights, I felt better, but i could feel my eyes getting tired.

As we came into the city, I started to switch lanes to prepare to get off the highway, the next exit was mine. When I went to switch lanes I noticed the guy far in front of me was backing up! on the highway...not the shoulder, but I guess there wasn't a shoulder on a 7 lane highway, so I changed lanes to avoid him. Then, luckily I noticed traffic was stopped in front of me. Once our car came to a stop we heard screeching tires. Without any reaction of any sort we saw a car slam into the car next to the lane next to us!! 30 seconds later my emotions kicked in and i was shaking inside and with my hand over my mouth as i was repeating over and over 'thank you it wasn't us, thank you it wasn't us, thank you'.

After more thought, i realized our new American Cheverolt car did not have an airbag...not even one. Why? It's not standard? It's 2009 people! no? again, 'thank you it wasn't us'

We didn't sit in the stopped traffic too long. I thought we would be there all morning long, since at this point it was already 3:30am. The traffic was stopped because of another car accident. When we passed through, I didn't want to see, so I don't know how bad it was.

We dropped of the car and caught a cab home with all our things. On the way home the cab driver told us there was a bad accendent on the highway involving an overturned bus. I feel so so lucky that we all made it home safely.

Minus the nervracking drive and the other highway events I think yesterday was a near perfect day. One of the most memorable anyway.

Money spent (estimate)
205 pesos to rent the car
45 pesos to rent the gps
190 pesos gas
14 pesos brigde toll x 2
20 pesos tolls
30 pesos lunch
10 pesos thermas


Nancy said...

Looks like a fun roadtrip (minus the crazy accidents)

yillabean said...

it was it was!

krebiz said...

The pictures are so beautiful!
I was worried about you driving all over creation, probably b/c driving scares me to pieces, so I'm quite relieved to see that at the end of the day, everything went smoothly.

yillabean said...

thank you for thinking about me. i think your positive thoughts may have helped.

today, after telling my students i went on a road trip they told me more info on how dangerous it is to drive at night...eek. i'm going to write a post on it and not drive during the night on the next road trip.

Anonymous said...

Yillabean, for such a small young woman, you sure have major cojones!

yillabean said...

haha, thanks donigan for your comment! at times i'm tuff and at times i'm a big chicken. i feel tuff on road trips :-)